Transforming Urban and Rural Memorialization in Southern Africa
Date and Start Time 30 June, 2017 at 14:00
This panel will analyze memorials and monuments constructed by governments in Angola and Namibia. We explore the messaging of several important monuments built before and since independence.
This panel will analyze memorials and monuments constructed by governments in Angola and Namibia. Since the gradual and contested decolonization of the region, governments have responded in a variety of ways to colonial-era memorials and monuments. For example, in Angola, the post-colonial government removed virtually all of the former regime's monuments; whereas in South Africa, the democratic government left in place most monuments. Governments also constructed new monuments to commemorate the independence struggle and celebrate new nationalist narratives.
Yet, this new era of memorialization left some out. In this panel, we explore the messaging of several important monuments built before and since independence. Some of the questions we will consider include: What are the ramifications of leaving colonial and apartheid-era monuments standing? What narratives do new commemorative projects tell us about postcolonial nationalism? How successful are commemorative monuments and memorials in sanctifying official narratives about the nation? How do groups left out of official commemorations create alternative spaces and practices for commemoration? To what extent do official commemorations speak to generations born after independence?
Chair: Jeremy Ball
Discussant: Christopher Saunders
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Changing Urbanscapes: Colonial and Postcolonial Memorials in Windhoek
My paper investigates how recent sites that anchor memories of anti-colonial resistance and national liberation have changed the urban landscape of Windhoek. I discuss their aesthetics, transnational connections and the symbolic politics of location, to understand contestations of nationalist narrative.
My paper investigates how recently-constructed sites that anchor memories of anti-colonial resistance and national liberation have changed the urban landscape of the Namibian capital, Windhoek. The presentation focuses on the Namibian Independence Memorial Museum and the Genocide Memorial. These North Korean-built memorials take different forms as a massive modernist building and statue of Nambia's first President, Sam Nujoma, and as a heroic monument to commemorate the early 20th century German genocide in Namibia. Sitting in a prominent hill-top position of central Windhoek, together they have significantly altered the city's skyline. They have replaced an infamous colonial memorial, the 'Windhoek Rider' equestrian statue, and dwarf nearby iconic German colonial era buildings.
The presentation will focus on the aesthetics and politics of these key sites for the production of social memory and nationalist narrative. It will expand the discussion of the sites' visual and iconic signifiers to the symbolic politics of location. I argue that aesthetics and location are crucial to understand the political contestations surrounding the memorials. This includes the transnational connections of southern African memorials to African heroism, which have been designed and erected by a conspicuous North Koream company.
Rethinking Imperial Germany Memorials: the Reiterdenkmal fall and the rise of nationalists' memorialisation in Namibia
This paper explores the politically motivated removal of the controversial historical memorial, the Reiterdenkmal, in relation to the public response to its disappearance from the city centre to an unknown location.
On the eve of the Christmas day, 2013, the Namibian Police moved the Reiterdenkmal (erected in 1912 to commemorate German soldiers and civilians killed in the war with Herero and Nama people) from its historic site in the heart of Namibia's capital city, Windhoek, to an undisclosed location. This paper argues that the drive to demonize colonial memorials (the mediums through which colonialists' relations with local communities can be contextualized and negotiated) as deplorable and unacceptable historic figures in an independent Namibia translates into the Namibian state's intent to replace Namibia's complex and dynamic history of colonization, resistance to colonialism and the liberation struggle with a biased and commonplace nationalist narratives. It is further argued that the removal of the Reiterdenkmal landmark memorial would not eliminate and silence people's memories about experiences of colonialism nor can it lead to forgetfulness of historic events to which civil society attaches importance.
Ovambo Campaign Memorial: Who is being commemorated? King Mandume or the fallen British troops?
It is popularly believed that King Mandume’s head was decapitated and that it was buried under the Ovambo Campaign Memorial in Windhoek. Many people still have this belief and associate this monument with Mandume.
This paper explores the historic importance of one public memorial monument in Windhoek claimed to honour him. Ovambo Campaign Memorial was erected in 1919 to commemorate the British South Africa troops who died during the campaign against King Mandume in Oihole on 6 February 1917. It has however been appropriated as a memorial to King Mandume, as many OvaKwanyama claimed that the king's head was decapitated and later taken to Windhoek where it was installed in the Ovambo Campaign Memorial. During colonial rule many Ovambos came to Windhoek as migrant labourers where they lived in locations. Thus Windhoek was an intersection point between north and south and the coast, with labour coming from the north and mines, harbours and farms in the south.
This paper has been developed in collaboration Kletus Likuwa.
Toponimy of the city and the theater of memory: commemorative street names in Maputo during the colonial and socialist periods
This paper discusses commemorative street naming in Maputo during the colonial and the post-independence socialist periods to examine the practice of urban space in mapping historical events and creating alternative memory narratives.
Built urban spaces, with monuments, streets and public spaces, are the materiality of the historic past in the present. In Maputo, they have also been the anchor of colonialism and of the nation in a narrative of historical time. This paper discusses commemorative street naming in Maputo during the colonial and the post-independence socialist periods as a vehicle for bringing the past into the present and symbolically legitimate and institutionalize the colonial and revolutionary socialism ideologies. My aim is to go beyond a geographical and theoretical construction of the city and politics of naming, to discuss, influenced by de Certeau's use of spatial practices, the experience of urban space as a "text" in a readable city. In Maputo, as in other cities, street names merge the past they commemorate with ordinary settings of daily life in socially contested processes and are part of structures of power and everyday conditions of social life. But how does a walker articulate this mapping of historical events, creating his/her own organicity of memory in the city? What is the epistemological value that specific trajectories "speak?" The mapping of city names in Maputo creates a practice of space that appropriates and manipulates places and memory. Yet walking through officially manipulated spaces allows for a selection of narratives and fragmentation of the space traversed; thus creating new links between memorial episodes and omitting parts of the intended historical and ideological mapping.
Conflating the Party and the Nation in Three Angolan Monuments
By analyzing historical narratives in three significant Angolan monuments constructed since independence, this paper argues that a conflation of the ruling party and the nation excludes large numbers of Angolans and ignores contributions of rival nationalist movements to independence.
Since coming to power in 1975, Angola's MPLA government has constructed monuments to commemorate its victories against foreign intervention and rival nationalist movements. By analyzing the narratives in three Angolan monuments - the Heroínas Monument, the Martyrs of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale Monument, and the Agostinho Neto Monument in Huambo - this paper argues that the dominant narratives conflate the party (MPLA) with the nation and, as a result, ignore the perspectives and memories of fellow Angolans who supported competing nationalist movements.
[Discussant] Memorialisations of liberation wars: some ANC and SWAPO comparisons
This paper will consider ways in which the roles of the ANC and SWAPO during their respective liberation struggles have been memorialised.
Memorialisations of liberation wars: some ANC and SWAPO comparisons
This paper will consider ways in which the South African and Namibian governments have memorialised the roles of the ANC and SWAPO during their respective liberation struggles, and will compare the two, in respect of both rural and urban memorials. Heroes Acre in Windhoek will be contrasted with Freedom Park outside Pretoria, and issues of inclusivity will be analysed, along with the ways in which memorials have come into being, not only in South Africa and Namibia themselves but also in Angola, where both liberation movements had their military camps. Finally, the issue of memorialisation will be related to the consciousness of the liberation struggles in the two cases: in that of the ANC internal resistance was far more important, but the liberation struggle remains more significant in present-day politics in Namibia than in South Africa.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.